Understanding t he water cycles When the city moved to a 28-day meter reading cycle in July 2018, sta ff did not realize this would generate more cycles than bills every year. As of February 2020, the lapse had reached 60 days from when the meter was read to when the bill was sent. Here is a sample billing cycle to show how the lag occurred over time.
Industry standards require meters to be read every 28-32 days for billing, according to city sta ff . As the meters had a manual component, which required people to go out and read them manually and report the num- bers, there were times meters were read closer to every 40 days, Pearson said. “It was a function of the manual piece of [the system],” he said. “It’s more susceptible to sta ffi ng and holidays.” The new system read meters every 28 days and billed once a month, according to city sta ff . Over the next two years, city sta ff was unaware this system was creating a larger gap, sta ff said. The problem was addressed publicly, for the fi rst time, in Feb- ruary when roughly 25% of the city received two bills in one month. The new system was still sending out bills monthly; however, with the new read cycle, meters would be read 13 times a year. “It was confusing to people, and it shouldn’t have occurred,” Deputy City Manager Jon Branson said. Branson, who oversaw the util- ity billing system as part of his role as Deputy City Manager, has since announced his retirement, as did the director of fi nance at the time, Cynthia Pearson, according to a city document. The city’s next steps The Olson & Olson report stated: “The main reason the billing gap was not recognized and corrected in a timely fashion was because the city failed to have any policies, proce- dures or practices in place designed to monitor and address the potential dis- parities between the meter-read dates and billing dates.” Clay Pearson believes adjusting the system to the 32/30 standard will address the policy issues.
CONTINUED FROM 1 been read every 28 days and bills sent out once a month, cre- ating a gap between the read- ing and billing cycle. By only reading meters every 28 days, meters were being read faster than bills were being sent out. Over time, the gap between the meter readings and the bills had grown so large, it had reached a 60-day discrepancy. This was the gap once it was brought before the public in February. As a result, the city of Pearland still needs to collect $6 million in payments. “It’s an accrual of water that has not been billed,” City Man- ager Clay Pearson said. “That’s not money that is lost.” A new plan to regulate the city’s water billing system was approved in April. This wraps up the policy issue presented publicly in February, but the consequences of the error con- tinue in the eyes of residents. “It’s a loss of faith,” Pearland resident Denise Hewitt said. Rather than reading bills every 28 days, the 32/30 plan approved in April reads them every 32 and will bill every 30. By this plan, the city expects to collect the $6 million by early 2023. How the gapwas created In July 2018, the city real- ized due to the manual compo- nent of reading water meters, it was often taking longer than industry standards to read cus-
SOURCE: CITY OF PEARLAND / COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
Bills sent: monthly
Usage: 28-day cycle
Lapse between usage and billing
Nov-Dec. water use: 16-day lapse to bill
April-May water use: 27-day lapse to bill
July water use: 3-day lapse to bill
May-June water use: 29-day lapse to bill
Dec-Jan. water use: 19-day lapse to bill
July-Aug. water use: 6-day lapse to bill
Jan.-Feb. water use: 19-day lapse to bill
June water use: 32-day lapse to bill
Aug.-Sept. water use: 8-day lapse to bill
Sept-Oct. water use: 11-day lapse to bill
Feb.-March water use: 22-day lapse to bill
By the end of 2019, the water billing was o ffi cially more than 30 days behind the water usage.
tomers’ meters, Pearson said. The city had received several customer complaints about billing as well. The utility billing depart- ment was given the directive by city management to get the read time closer to 30 days, and the 28-day read cycle was subsequently born.
March-April water use: 24-day lapse to bill
Oct-Nov. water use: 13-day lapse to bill
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